What Does Sotomayor’s 60% Overturn Rate Mean? NOTHING.

May 29, 2009

Via Steve Benen:

Of all the bullshit out there about the SCOTUS nominee, this one is perhaps annoying: that Judge Sotomayor has a ridiculously high 60% overturn rate for her decisions by the Supreme Court. You see, she’s apparently so stupid/liberal/extreme/dimwitted that her court decisions are, a majority of the time, reversed upon appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Expect this is, like much of what the right has been hurling at the judge, complete and utter bullshit. Judge Sotomayor has authored 380 majority decisions while on the bench for the 2nd Circuit. Of those 380, 5 were heard on appeal to the Supreme Court. 3 of the 5 were overturned by the Supreme Court. There’s your 60%.

In other words, you get a 60% figure because the Supreme Court overturned 3 of the 5 decisions it had agreed to hear. It only agreed to hear, of course, the appealed cases that it felt had a chance of being overturned. 375 of Judge Sotomayor’s 380 decisions were not heard by the Supreme Court in the first place, whether or not they were appealed.

How does this compare to other Supreme Court nominees? Justice Alito, when he sat on a Circuit Court, had two cases successfully appealed to the Supreme Court, and both were overturned. That’s a 100% overturn rate!!

Then add to this the fact that the Supreme Court typically overturns over 70% of the cases appealed from Circuit Courts that it agrees to hear in any given year (and the fact that 5 is not a large enough sample size to determine whether Sotomayor’s record is truly worse or better than average).

So what does all this mean? Absolutely nothing. The 60% overturn statistic is utterly meaningless, and it tells us nothing about Judge Sotomayor’s qualities or deficiencies. Nothing. It is make-believe, pure and simple.

Nothing to see here, folks.

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